The internet has made it easy for anyone to launch an online store and reach customers eager for their products. The two leading e-commerce platforms, Shopify and WooCommerce, dominate the online marketplace, and for good reason. They’re both rich with features that allow users to set up a store, organize inventory, take orders and ship products.

While they both do essentially the same thing, they have different features and behind-the-scenes requirements. There’s no shortage of articles comparing the two platforms, and most of them say they’re pretty evenly matched. That may not be helpful if you’re trying to figure out which one to use.

For brands in the fishing and paddlesports industries, there is a solid reason to choose one over the other. Your choice depends on your long-range vision. So let’s start by comparing Shopify and WooCommerce in this context, and then we’ll share our guidance on making the smart pick for your brand.

A Comparative Look at WooCommerce and Shopify

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, so if your brand’s website currently runs on that content management system, WooCommerce is a shoo-in. There’s a free basic version, but you’ll likely need a few paid plugins and extensions to run key features and create exactly the system you need. Extensions enable you to process credit cards, connect with USPS/UPS/FedEx to calculate shipping costs, integrate with social media, accept coupons, automatically follow up with customers after purchase and more.

To use WooCommerce, you must have a WordPress website in place first; because of that, you’ll likely need to engage a web partner to design and develop both pieces. Both WordPress and WooCommerce are built on standard web programming languages that your average coder or site designer should be fluent in.

Shopify is a hosted solution, which means that Shopify maintains your ecommerce site on their servers. While that eliminates some headache for users, it also means you never really own your Shopify website but are simply renting the service. As long as you pay your monthly fee, you have a website; if you stop paying your monthly fee, your website goes away. Further, you can’t migrate a Shopify store to another platform (you’ll have to start over if you make a move).

On the upside, Shopify is pretty much plug-and-play: Without much technical expertise, you can start a trial, pick a template, start loading your products, choose a monthly tier and open for business.

Is Shopify or WooCommerce Right for My Brand?

Customized vs. templated

Shopify’s ease of use comes with a caveat: It relies on templates that are simple to launch but give e-stores a similar look and feel. In the fishing and paddlesports industry, we see a tremendous number of stores built on Shopify. You can go to fishing site after fishing site after fishing site and see the same template. Adopting the same look and feel as your competitors is not how you build a brand.

What’s more, Shopify doesn’t easily allow custom features that can help you sell, like a pricing calculator or “build your boat” feature. Shopify is built on a proprietary coding language called Liquid, which isn’t widely used among web designers. Customizing a Shopify site is possible, but it’s not easy or cheap. That said, you’ll also need to engage a web designer/developer to build your WooCommerce site, which takes time and money.

Ecommerce vs. more

Shopify is great if you’re an e-tailer and you don’t envision your brand evolving into more than that. WordPress’ aptitude for handling content make WooCommerce the stronger option if you want to create a story, lifestyle and community around your brand that’s about more than selling product.

Upfront cost vs. ongoing

Costs for both platforms add up over time. Shopify charges a monthly fee, plus extra for additional features like using their payment system, plus a percentage of sales and a fee per transaction. The basic tier is super bare-bones; you don’t get gift cards, you can’t display third party shipping rates, you don’t get reporting, you don’t have access to premium templates. Your Shopify tally can quickly run to $300/month for a full-featured ecommerce site. Still, that’s not unreasonable if you’re selling lots of product.

WooCommerce costs include startup costs for agency development and design time and upfront platform costs like extensions and plugins. You’ll also pay fees per transaction to use a third-party merchant payment system.

Over time, cost differences between the two platforms probably wash out. So pricing is not a real differentiator when you’re debating between WooCommerce and Shopify.

Instead, the decision comes down to two things: scalability and customization. If you envision your fishing or paddlesports brand serving a purpose beyond selling gear, then you’ll need both of those things, and WooCommerce is your best option.

Still wondering what platform is right for your brand? We can help you sort it out and build exactly what you need.

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